Amitabha Buddha’s Assembly in the Western Paradise
Unidentified Artist Korean, ca. 1775–1850
Joseon dynasty (1392–1910)
late 18th–early 19th century
Framed drawing; ink and traces of color on paper
Image: 59 1/2 x 59 1/2 in. (151.1 x 151.1 cm)
Louis V. Bell, Mary Trumbell Adams and Harris Brisbane Dick Funds, 2011
Not on view
This painting depicts an assembly of divine figures in the Western Paradise, the realm of the Amitabha Buddha (Korean: Amida). The deity sits at center on a lotus flower atop a fabric-covered dais, surrounded by a supporting cast of twelve bodhisattvas, disciples, guardians, and attendants. In particular, Kshitigarbha (Korean: Jijang) and Avalokiteshvara (Korean: Kwaneum), to the Buddha’s right and left, respectively, are often paired as attendant bodhisattvas to Amitabha in Korean Pure Land Buddhist iconography. The Buddha’s standard physical attributes include the cranial protrusion (ushnisha) that symbolizes his wisdom, elongated ears, and halos around his head and body. He touches his right thumb to his right middle finger in a gesture indicative of teaching.
Ink drawings like this one were originally adhered to the backs of coarsely woven, semitransparent silks, on which the final image was painted (guided by the ink lines of the underdrawing). Here, small areas of the paper where the pigments have seeped through the silk display faint traces of red and green colors. This piece is a finished drawing and not a study sketch. Few such underdrawings survive today as independent works of art; this example counts among the best. The elegant and dynamic calligraphic quality evident in this drawing would have been lost in the final painting, as pigments mask and trump lines. The drawing not only reveals the processes involved in producing a Buddhist painting in Joseon Korea but also preserves an important facet of that creative output.
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